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The whole country stood still for the second time this year when floodwaters ravaged the Western Division taking with it lives, homes and livelihoods.
Agricultural damages now stand at $17,416,693.20 and there was a significant increase in the damages sustained as compared to the January floods.
Crops affected were mostly rootcrops, vegetables and fruits that were planted in the flats and rolling slopes.
It is expected to take up to four months for farmers in the West to recover and start producing again on their farms.
For farmers in the Central Division, life goes on and their produce is fetching good prices now in the local markets.
Nakadi Tauli is a settlement in Naitasiri and is home to farming families that have been living there since birth.
MANI LAL’S STORY
62-year-old Mani Lal has been living in Nakadi for years and has been farming all his life since dropping out of school at an early age.
“My success is due to farming and I have managed to put all my children through school because of the income that we earned through planting root-crops and vegetables,” he smiled.
The hard working farmer is still going strong and has even begun rice farming.
“Rice farming is not new to the settlement as it was practiced before, but we are trying to revive it in the community so that more people are aware of the benefits of rice farming,” explained Mani.
There are currently 20 rice farmers in the vicinity and according to Mani; the interest is gaining momentum daily. The same sentiments are shared by his long-time neighbor, 50-year-old Shiu Raj. He has never given up on rice farming and has been producing rice for food security purposes.
“My 10 acres farm is filled with rootcrops, vegetables, fruit trees and rice so I don’t have a worry in the world when it comes to food security,” says Shiu.
Shiu recently harvested 625 kilogrammes of rice which he took to the Buiduna Rice Mill for milling purposes.
“I am so happy that Government is now pouring in assistance for rice farmers so that this commodity can be revitalized and be a source of food and income for many more interested people,” explained Shiu.
To show their commitment in revitalizing the rice industry, the Department of Agriculture recently carried out a demonstration in Nakadi Settlement for mechanized rice farming.
According to Director of Extension Services Mr Uraia Waibuta, the demonstration was aimed at broadening the minds of farmers on the way forward for agricultural development.
“Mechanized rice farming is the way forward for farmers who want to increase their production and income,” Mr Waibuta said.
According to Shiu, mechanized farming is indeed the way forward and says that farmers in Nakadi will work harder so that they will be able to buy machines for rice cultivation.
“We witnessed the work carried out by the rice harvester and it’s quite exciting for us,” smiled Shiu.
“Four labourers can take upto two days to harvest rice on one acre land using sickles but with the rice harvester, it only takes 50 minutes!” said an excited Shiu.
Through the Nakadi Farmers Group, the duo has been able to entice other farmers into rice cultivation.
“There are so many opportunities that farmers can harness if we work together with the agricultural experts and we are happy that we have been paid regular visits by our extension officers.”
SHIU ENCOURAGES FARMERS
Shiu Raj believes that this is the time for Central Division farmers to shine and show that they can also be competitive in the farming business.
“We have been hearing so many accolades for farmers in the Western Division who are large-scale vegetable farmers. With the unfortunate wrath of Mother Nature, it is time that Central farmers worked harder to produce for the local markets,” they added.
The Department of Agriculture aims to reduce rice imports to $35million annually to the current import bill of $40million annually.
According to Mr Waibuta, the department is going out of its way to encourage farmers to revive some of the old rice-growing areas and get them back into production.
“Most farmers have been moving out of rice farming as it is labor intensive as well as costly but with the demonstrations that we have carried out so far.
“We are hopeful that it will ignite some interest with the farmers and if they work together in groups, they will be able to purchase their own machines,” added Mr Waibuta.
The Department of Agriculture provides free training to farmers on how to use the machines that farmers can hire at a cost from the department.